In the News
Washington Post Embarrasses Itself with Debunked Koch Keystone Claim
John Hinderaker, Power Line, 20 March 2014
Society of Environmental Journalists Attacks EPA’s Secrecy
Beth Parke & Joseph Davis, Environmental Health News, 18 March 2014
Living without Lights: The Plight of Energy Poverty
James Konsky, Brown Political Review, 17 March 2014
News You Can Use
Cold Weather Decreases Electric Vehicle Range, AAA Study Finds
A new study by Automobile Association of America (AAA) finds that electric vehicles (EVs) can lose up to 57% of their rated range in cold weather. Reports Julia Pyper in ClimateWire: “At 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the average electric vehicle (EV) battery range in AAA's test was 105 miles. But at a steady 20 degrees, the range dropped by more than half, to 43 miles.”
Inside the Beltway
Senate Committee To Revive Wind PTC
The Senate Finance Committee will vote as early as the first week in April on a large package of tax cut extenders, which will include the wind production tax credit (Wind PTC), according to a committee staffer for the Democratic majority. According to news reports, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.), the new chairman of the committee, hasn’t decided whether to extend the tax breaks until the end of 2014 or 2015.
The Wind PTC expired at the end of 2013. Proposals to build new wind farms have been put on hold until the Congress acts to renew the tax subsidy.
Sen. Vitter Releases Report on Fake Spy’s Role at EPA
Senator David Vitter (R-La.), ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, released a report on 19th March on the central role played by recently-convicted felon John Beale in designing the EPA’s 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone and Particulate Matter. According to “EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: a Story of Fraud, Deceit, and Secret Science,” which was prepared by the committee’s minority staff, Robert Brenner, head of the Office of Policy, Analysis and Review in the Office of Air and Radiation, recruited his best friend Beale to work in a high-level policy position despite his lack of any qualifications or experience.
Beale spent his last decade at the EPA taking longer and longer leaves of absence based on the fiction that he was also working for the CIA. In fact, he spent the time at home, at his vacation home on Cape Cod, and traveling on vacation. He pleaded guilty last December to defrauding the government and was sentenced to 32 months in prison and required to pay $1.4 million in restitution. Beale, who was the highest paid employee at the EPA for a number of years, was allowed to retire after his fraud became known to now-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (who was then deputy administrator for air and radiation) and thus retain his federal pension.
The most important policy accusation made in the report is that Beale and Brenner had a strategy that used shady and improper methods to achieve their regulatory goals. The committee press release summarizes this key conclusion: “Beginning in 1995, Beale and Brenner led EPA’s internal process to NAAQS for Ozone and Particulate Matter. The duo set in motion “EPA’s Playbook,” a strategy to game the system by compressing the interagency review via a friendly sue-and-settle arrangement, relying on secret science, and inflating dubious benefits while underestimating real economic costs.” The implication is that Beale was acting in a fraudulent manner in his policy work long before he started pretending to be a spy.
Across the States
Indiana Legislature Passes Bill To Repeal State’s Energy Efficiency Mandate
The Indiana legislature has passed and sent a bill to Governor Mike Pence (R) to repeal the State’s energy efficiency rule that requires utilities to reduce consumers’ electricity consumption by 22% by 2025. Governor Pence has until 27th March to sign, veto, or let the bill become law without signing it.
Governor Pence said in an interview with Indiana Public Broadcasting, “We’re going to very carefully consider the importance of energy efficiency programs and conservation. But we’re also going to take a careful look at the overall energy costs in the state of Indiana.”
The initial Senate bill, SB 340, was narrow in scope, but was expanded into a full repeal of the electric efficiency requirements when a floor amendment offered by Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo) was adopted by the Indiana House. The Senate then agreed to the House version.
Kansas Senate Committee Moves Bill To Repeal Green Energy Production Quota
The Kansas Senate’s utilities committee voted on 20th March in favor of a bill to repeal Kansas’s renewable portfolio standard for electric generation. The bill was then added to a House-passed bill, which means that if the measure passes the Senate it can then be passed by the House without a committee hearing or vote.
According to the Lawrence Journal-World, state Senator Rob Olson (R-Olathe) said that the 2009 law was raising electric rates and was like requiring that “20% of the people to keep a BlackBerry.” Chances for passing the repeal look good in both the Senate and House, but Governor Sam Brownback (R) has advocated for more wind energy and could veto the bill.
Around the World
Did Secretary Kerry Talk Climate Change with Russian Foreign Minister?
U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for six hours in London on Friday, 14th March. They then talked by phone on Sunday, 16th March. News reports concentrated on what was or may have been said about Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, but this clearly misses the big story. As Secretary John Kerry announced in his first speech after being sworn in as Secretary of State, spelled out in detail in his Jakarta speech last month, and directed all U. S. ambassadors in his first policy guidance, the greatest national security threat facing America is climate change, so that’s what he and the State Department are going to be concentrating on.
John Bolton may snidely remark that Kerry taking on the Russian foreign minister is like a cupcake negotiating with a steak knife, but I bet our Secretary of State had some pretty tough words for Mr. Lavrov about Russia’s obstructionism in the ongoing UN negotiations over a new climate treaty. On the other hand, Russia could help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by stopping its enormous deliveries of natural gas to many European countries. Perhaps that is what Secretary Kerry is cleverly trying to provoke the Russians into doing.
Australian Senate Defeats Carbon Tax Repeal
The Australian Senate on 20th March defeated the conservative Coalition’s legislation to repeal the carbon tax enacted under the previous Labor government. Senators from the Labor and Green parties combined to defeat the repeal on a 33 to 29 vote.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt immediately announced that the government would re-introduce and pass the legislation in the House after a prescribed three-month delay and then put it before the incoming Senate that will take office in July. The coalition of the Liberal and National parties can pass the carbon tax repeal in the new Senate if they can pick up the support of Senators representing several minor parties, including independent Nick Xenophon, one from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, one from the Family First Party, and three from the Palmer United Party, a new party which is headed by Clive Palmer, the Queensland-based iron and coal magnate.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.